Exploring Hope: Jesus was interrupted too

We all hate interruptions. But as a parent of two small children, interruptions are a way of life. I finally lay down to sleep after a long day, and—interruption—a toddler burst into my room. I think I have my baby down for a nap, and I settle down to read a book until — interruption— cries ring from the bedroom.

But interruptions can come from other sources as well. You settle in to get that project done at work when — interruption— a coworker barges into your office. You are out for a relaxing walk to clear your head when — interruption— your talkative neighbor stops you.

So, how can we deal with interruptions? Well, as I was enjoying an uninterrupted time of Bible reading recently, I was struck by the way Jesus handled interruptions in Matthew 14. Jesus heard about the death of his friend, John the Baptist, and in verse 13, the text says that he “withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” He sought out solitude. And this was his modus operandi: he often retreated for times of prayer and reflection in the busyness of life and public ministry.

Now, most of the sermons I’ve heard on this passage say something like this: “Jesus needed time alone for prayer and reflection. Therefore, it’s right for us to pursue this as well.” Of course, this application is correct. But is it the only application? After all, notice what happened to Jesus in Matthew 14:13: “But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

And this should be our response to interruptions as well. When the kids crawl into your bed when you’re trying to sleep, when your toddler interrupts your time of reading and reflection, when your neighbor needs to talk, or when your coworker barges into your office, do you feel compassion? Do you look for opportunities to love and serve?

However, lest we think this is an isolated event, Jesus makes another attempt to be alone in Matthew 14. His first attempt failed. But in verse 23, the text says, “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Jesus seizes another opportunity to be alone.

But look at verse 25. His disciples got on a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee until a dangerous storm suddenly blew in. They were about to be drowned. Therefore, Jesus left his time of solitude to save them. Jesus was willing to be interrupted out of love for others.

Therefore, are we willing to be interrupted? Do we respond in anger and frustration? Or do we respond in grace, compassion, and mercy like our Lord Jesus Christ? My prayer for all of us is that we will pursue times of solitude for prayer and reflection. This is important in a busy world. But we should never idolize our times of solitude. Sometimes they are interrupted, and that’s okay. The greater call is to love God and to love those around us as God first loved us and gave himself for us.

 

About Will Stern

Originally from Colorado, Will Stern is the pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Garnet Valley. He majored in violin performance for his undergrad and taught violin for a number of years before being called into ministry. He studied theology at Duke University and Westminster Theological Seminary.

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